After several weeks of obstruction, the Liberal Party members of the National Defense Committee of the House of Commons bypassed the opposition by publishing their own list of suggestions to resolve the crisis of sexual misconduct by the Canadian military.
The Liberal Party made a total of 24 proposals; the most notable is the request to expand the scope of the Ministry of Defense’s Sexual Misconduct Response Center (SMRC).
In a statement issued later today, Liberal MPs stated that they would like to see SMRC become “the main reporting resource for criminal and non-criminal sexual misconduct.”
These recommendations are a far cry from a complete, non-partisan report-which is usually produced by committees in the House of Commons. The committee adjourned on Monday and did not issue such a report.
The work of the Four-Party Committee has been stalled for a month, because five Liberal MPs have repeatedly blocked the Conservative Party’s motion to reopen public hearings by convening former senior advisers to the Secretary of Defense Harjit Sajjan.
After the former chief of defense staff and retired general Jonathan Vance was accused of misconduct, the committee’s public hearings began in February and continued throughout the spring. The opposition-led committee wants to know what the Liberal government knows about these allegations and when.
None of the proposals put forward by the Liberal Party members involved the accountability system.
‘Disgusting and shocking’
Normally, the parties cooperate to prepare the final report of the committee. As Parliament is about to adjourn in the summer — and the possibility of elections in the fall is still high — the Liberal Party has decided to leave the Conservative Party, the New Democrats and the Quebec Group behind.
Ontario Liberal Party Member Ivan Baker said in a statement issued after the committee adjourned on Monday: “Opposition members should be ashamed of their attempts to use this committee to carry out cheap partisan attacks, not for the Canadian armed forces. To make a real change.”.
Conservative defense critic James Bezan told the committee that he found that members of the Liberal Party were putting more effort into protecting the Secretary of Defense and his former chief of staff, rather than understanding why the accusations against Vance took three years to come to light. This made him feel “disgusting and bad.”
“Watching all these politics play out, I have never been so frustrated as a member of this committee in the past 10 years,” Bezan said.
“All the debate we heard last month barely touched on the scope of this study, namely the allegations of sexual misconduct against General Vance and Admiral. [Art] Macdonald. When it comes to ministerial accountability issues related to the Chief of Defense Staff, this is where the Liberal Party continues to obstruct. “
The Liberal Party stated that the Conservative Party did not focus on listening to the views of sexual assault survivors, nor did it pay attention to how the committee can positively influence the military culture that allows misconduct to persist.
Bezan told committee members that looking at the crisis through this lens is the main task of another House of Commons committee. In fact, many of the recommendations made by the Liberal Party in the National Defense Commission reflect the recommendations in the final report of the Commission on the Status of Women, which has also been made public recently.
The Liberal government has ordered an independent review of misconduct in the military, led by former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour. A copy of the proposal drafted by the Liberal Party member in the National Defense Committee has been forwarded to her.
“Given that the committee is deadlocked and unable to reach an agreement on the report, we think it is important to share our work with you because you will conduct an independent external review of the DND/CAF culture and policies,” said the letter to Arbor. All five Liberal Party MPs signed.
“Therefore, we are sharing our recommendations with you, and we hope you consider them in your important tasks.”